The Friday Muse – The Unending Staircase

TFM - The Unending Staircase Panel.png

Made of concrete, the small thirty by thirty structure sat alone in a vacant parking lot. A single black door against all-white cement was the only indication that people were meant to enter and exit the structure. The lot itself belonged to a grocery store that had been torn down long ago.

Nothing else resided for miles along Highway 17, even though the highway was a main artery connecting Fenneston to Fairbanks.

Pam spotted the uncanny landmark while passing through on Highway 17 on her way to Fairbanks. In fact, she passed it many times on her multiple trips to Fairbanks. She always found herself curious as to why the grocery store had been demolished but the cement encasing had remained.

She used a large stone to hold the door open, allowing for the cool spring breeze to pass through the structure as she explored it, distilling some of the canny stuffiness. The light from the bleeding midday sun illuminated the walls inside, revealing nothing but dirt and grime, age from years gone by. No computers, no desks, no posters, no indication at all that a human being had been within these four walls at any point in the past.

It wasn’t like Pam to explore strange places by herself. She would have liked to have brought Patrick with her. But there hadn’t been time. Well, there was time – all the time in the world. But urgency – an urgency she couldn’t explain – had prompted her to come here and satisfy her curiosity.

But this place felt wrong. Wrong in the sense that life didn’t move freely here. Here, it was a slave to something else, or maybe many something elses. The air in the main room was thick, stuffy, and the scent of rot was almost overwhelming to the point of forcing her to leave.

Instead, she stepped closer to the cement staircase that went down in a rectangular pattern…

Down…

                              Down….

        Down…

…into darkness.

Pam peered down into that darkness, shining her flashlight to the very bottom. But the light beam wouldn’t reach the very bottom; it only revealed more darkness.

“You should check it out,” Rebecca said.

“I don’t want to now,” Pam whispered. “I don’t really want to see what’s down there.”

“Aren’t you the adventurous one between the two of us?” Rebecca countered. “Didn’t we drive all the way here to explore this place?”

Pam cocked her head to the left. “Perhaps. But I don’t want to see what’s down there. What if it’s just darkness?”

“Why would someone build this structure here if it had no purpose?”

Pam sighed. “I guess you have a point about that.”

“I do,” Rebecca said. Even though she was simply another voice in Pam’s head, her emotions tugged and pushed against Pam’s. Pam could feel the woman’s swirling mess of excitement and desire.

Pam pushed those feelings away from her heart and started down the stairway. “This is a very bad idea.”

“We’ll see,” Rebecca said simply. “There’s no harm in going down a few floors, just to see if we can get the flashlight to shine on the bottom. Then I’ll be satisfied.”

The stairs had no railing, so Pam used the wall to balance herself as she traveled downward. She counted three full floors and then stopped. Using her flashlight, she attempted to find the bottom of the winding passage, but only more darkness was revealed. She looked up and was surprised to find the blanket of sunlight pouring through the door at the top was almost ten stories above her now.

“See?!” Pam squealed. “I told you, this place is wrong. All wrong.”

“Would you calm down? It’s just your imagination.”

Pam started up the stairs. She counted three floors, stopped, and took in her surroundings. The top of the stairs were now at least twenty floors above her, and the bottom continued to wallow in shadow. The air was colder this deep into the pit of whatever this was, but now it smelled of mold and dirty socks.

Panic set in, but Pam quickly wrestled it under her control. “What is happening?”

Rebecca scoffed. “What do you mean? You walked down a few floors, and now you’re a few floors down. What is there that you don’t get?”

Pam descended another four floors and found herself so far down that she couldn’t make out the sunlight at the top. Either the door had slammed shut, or she had traversed an insane amount of steps without knowing it.

She took a seat on the landing and breathed in deep to calm her spirit. The chill from the cold cement ran through her jeans and soaked through the skin of her legs. She ran the flashlight beam across the wall, searching for any kind of clue as to where she was. She noticed a strange etching in the cement. After staring at it for a full five minutes, she realized what it was: a drawing of a snake.

“Rebecca?” Pam called into the darkness.

She didn’t answer at first, even though Pam could feel the woman’s presence within her mind, weaving through memories, infringing upon Pam’s mental territory. Moments later, Rebecca came to the forefront of her brain. Her presence felt stronger than usual, almost as if it were trying to completely overpower Pam’s.

“What?” Rebecca asked.

Pam stood to her feet, but kept the light on the etching of the snake. “The snake, it’s your favorite animal, isn’t it?”

“One of. Yes.”

Pam peered over the edge of the landing and shined her light straight down into the darkness. “It never ends, does it?”

“No.”

“You. You brought me here.”

You brought us here.”

Pam shined the light above her, revealing only darkness. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“How do I get out of here?”

“Just leave it to me…”

“That’s why.”

“Yes. It’s time you let me lead us for a while.”

“No. No, you-“

“You’ve always hated me. Deep down inside, you’ve always wanted me gone. Gone from this body, gone from your mind.”

“You don’t belong…you don’t belong inside of me,” Pam whispered. “I want to be me…only me.”

“That’s a problem for me,” Rebecca replied.

Pam sat on the landing and leaned against the wall. She could feel Rebecca trying to force her eyes to close, trying to force her to succumb to the other side of her.

“You need a break,” Rebecca whispered. “You need rest.”

Pam nodded. “Rest. Yes.” She let out a long sigh and inhaled the darkness…


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